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Meet ‘Cabo,’ the Air Force’s newest F-22 demo pilot

The Air Force on Tuesday introduced Maj. Joshua Gunderson as the newest pilot of the F-22 Raptor demonstration team.

Gunderson, who goes by the call sign “Cabo,” will lead the 14-member team, whose home is at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia, during the 2020 and 2021 show seasons, Air Combat Command said in a Wednesday release. He will fly the F-22 at air shows around the world and perform precision aerial maneuvers to demonstrate its unique capabilities, the release said.

ACC said Gunderson will also appear with the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation, flying his F-22 in formation with aircraft from the World War II, Korean and Vietnam war eras.

The team first announced Gunderson’s selection in a video posted Tuesday on Twitter and YouTube.

Maj. Josh
Maj. Josh "Cabo" Gunderson will perform precision aerial maneuvers in the F-22 at air shows around the world. (Air Force)

“Ever since I was a kid, I had one thing on my mind: Serving my country and flying fighter jets in the world’s greatest Air Force,” Gunderson said in the video. “I have learned that we’re tested not to show our weaknesses, but to discover our strengths. When you feel like quitting, remember why you started, remember what it took to get here, remember the journey.”

Gunderson is an experienced fighter pilot who has flown in combat, with more than 1,500 flight hours and two deployments to the Middle East. He transitioned from the F-15C Eagle to the F-22 in 2014, ACC said.

But he has dreamed of flying for the demo team since he was a young kid growing up in Tampa, Florida, ACC said.

“From the first time I saw jets at the MacDill Air Force Base Airfest, I have turned my eyes towards the skies and dreamed of being in the seat of a fighter jet,” Gunderson said.

Gunderson graduated from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs in 2008, where he studied geospatial science and minored in Spanish. While at the academy, Gunderson took part in a foreign exchange program with the Spanish Air Force at their academy in San Javier, Spain. He was also part of the Air Force Academy Soaring Team.

He earned his pilot wings two years later. after completing undergraduate pilot training at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas as part of the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot training program. He flew the T-6 Texan II and the T-38C Talon at UPT.

Cabo gestures from the cockpit of an F-22 Raptor. (Air Force)
Cabo gestures from the cockpit of an F-22 Raptor. (Air Force)

Gunderson was then assigned to the 44th Fighter Squadron at Kadena Air Base, where he flew F-15s. He finished the F-22 basic qualification course at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida in August 2014, and flew Raptors in the 90th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska until August 2019.

He was selected to be the next F-22 demo team commander and pilot while at Elmendorf, and moved to the 1st Fighter Wing at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in September 2019.

“It is incredibly humbling to be given the opportunity to serve as the next F-22 demo team commander,” Gunderson said. “The team is comprised of amazing airmen showcasing American airpower, and I look forward to joining such an impressive legacy for the next two years.”

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